Thursday, September 25, 2008

The National Rail Enquiries site sucks on mobile devices, really sucks. The javascript often does not automatically insert the correct date or time and the auto-completion on station names slows typing to glacial speeds. You're also not allowed to search for journeys minutes into the past, which is annoying as the minutes are grouped into 15 minute intervals (eg, if it is 4:35 you must choose the 4:45 option, not the 4:30 option). In fact the site was so frustrating that I started to develop my own alternative.

Just days after starting that page I visited on my iPhone and was stunned to be forwarded to Apparently they do have a mobile site. I was so impressed that I emailed them to compliment them on it. When I later visited again on my iPhone I was no longer forwarded to the mobile site and had to type in the address manually. I emailed them again to point out that their device recognition and forwarding was a bit flaky only to receive the following: "You are not automatically directed to the mobile version of our website." How the fuck are people supposed to know about these things?

I have now also noticed that the search results are not even the same, try getting the direct weekday 8:36 Brighton to London Bridge service on the mobile site.

Incidentally there is also a mobile TfL site that you may not know about.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Virgin Media is still sending me junk mail. Yesterday I called and was told that Virgin Media probably have no control over this particular piece of junk mail as Royal Mail probably addressed and sent it. I have been advised to contact Royal Mail to stop the junk mail so I will see how far I get with them. I was also given Virgin Media's Marketing contact details.*

After waiting a couple of weeks for O2 to get back to me (2 days quoted) I decided to call them. After explaining my problems I was told that the full amount I was charged while away has been refunded to my account. I guess they just couldn't be bothered to investigate.

DestroyedHaving destroyed my SmartTalk, Griffin have ceased contact. Maybe it was a joke.

* Seems that the Virgin Media guy I spoke to was wrong: 1. The opt out service only relates to unaddressed mail. Royal Mail is still legally obliged to deliver all addressed mail, which includes mail that is addressed “To the Occupier”. The Virgin Media junk mail is all addressed "To the Occupier".

Friday, September 12, 2008

Simply Cycle To Work

This post is dedicated to my friend Kai, who loves stuff which isn't nearly as simple as it could and should be.

I have been considering buying a new bike recently and the fact that my new company subscribes to the Ride 2 Work* scheme, coupled with the recent failure of my front brake cable** and the stars aligning meant that the auspicious time of bicycle purchase was upon me. The government's cycle to work scheme is advantageous as an employee pays for cycle equipment out of their gross pay over the course of a year, not only saving whatever income tax*** they would pay (ie, roughly 30%) but also by staggering the payment over a year. So I visited HR to ask how one could go about joining the scheme. I was told that the paper work wasn't ready but that as I was so in need I could run it past my big boss. He was busy but I went to a cycle shop after work to have a look at bikes, assuming that I could buy a bike and basically just pass the receipt on to my employer. After chatting with the assistant**** in the shop about the scheme I was again reminded of the rule that nothing is simple that can be made complicated by bureaucracy. Here's how the scheme actually works: You find out which shop your company has joined up with. You chose a bike from that shop. You record how much that bike costs. You fill in the following forms: Employee Registration, Employee Salary Sacrifice Agreement and Purchase Order. Finance (hopefully) approves your request. Your work informs the shop's head office. They send back a voucher. You collect bike. This, according to the first sentence in section 1.2 of the bumf I now have "couldn't be simpler". I beg to differ.

* As I have discovered this name is important, as it indicates which company you can buy your cycling equipment from, Ride2Work is the Evens Cycles scheme, other cycle to work schemes are available.

UPDATE I don't think this is true, in theory the scheme just allows your employer to give you an interest and tax free loan to buy a bike, however in practice companies such as Evans manage to lock companies in to their own schemes by making it simpler for them.

** Yes I am still using it. I came across the bridge of death this morning to find firemen trying to free another cyclist from beneath another lorry.

*** Actually it's better than I thought, you not only get income tax and national insurance off, but VAT too bringing the saving up to about 40% in my case.

**** When I said to the assistant that I would save whatever tax I pay, say 30%, he replied, well, it could be 50%. That's right, I am in the top tax bracket. Not.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Human Resources

"My Door is always open."

(But that doesn't mean you should walk through it.)

Friday, September 05, 2008

Griffin International Exchange

Still regarding the Griffin SmartTalk:

We handle exchanges for international customers a little differently. Rather than have you send us the defective product, we request taking a digital picture of the defective product destroyed. You can smash, burn or crack open in whatever way you would like, so long as you do so safely. Also, take a digital picture (or scan a copy) of your receipt. PLEASE DO A BEFORE AND AFTER PHOTO.

I'll say that's a little "different". Is someone winding me up?

O2 Customer Support

After coming back from the Balkans I found to my pleasant surprise that all the texts I'd sent had been taken from my monthly allowance, however I did have a series of expensive calls, most of which I hadn't made (or taken), it looked like they'd not only charged me for calls going to voice mail, but also the texts they's sent me informing me that I had received said voice mails. (I guess this because one of the recorded phone numbers was only 5 digits long.)

I decided to play it safe and just tell O2 customer support that I had not made the calls and not confuse them with my suspicions. The woman I spoke to would just not have it. Those calls are on the system and therefore they were made, she would not accept that there could be any mistake. Regarding the 5 digit number her response was that sometimes the system doesn't record the whole number. Yeah, right. Eventually, after much prodding she reluctantly agreed to fill in an investigation form and said that someone would contact me within a few days. A week later I am still waiting.

Incidentally, O2 Broadband customer support has been the best that I have ever experienced. Unfortunately I can't say the same about their mobile support. Maybe it has something to do with calling on a weekend, you get badly trained, badly motivated, hungover staff.

Advanced Customer Service

To: AdvanvedMP3 Players
Subject: Griffin SmartTalk iPhone Mic/Extension Cord

The mic on this product is practically useless, I have to hold it directly in front of my mouth for the other person to hear me, which makes the clip rather pointless. I have gone back to using the Apple headset shipped with my iPhone.


Thank you for your enquiry. The microphone will need to be close to your mouth as the unit has built in noise canceling to block out background noise. Your voice will therefore be blocked out if you are not close to the mic. Unfortunately we only offer refunds on unwanted items within 7 days of purchase.

Right. It's categorising my voice as noise. And I have to actually hold the mic in front of my mouth, I might as well just hold the phone to my head.

To be fair, Griffin's response was a lot more helpful.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

I Am Not A Business!

People have started contacting me recently using the information on my domain registration, assuming that Kitten-x is a business. The first spam call I got was from Dun & Bradstreet, apparently repeat offenders, offering inclusion in a business directory. After I had explained that I was not a business the caller promptly hung up. The latest call was from a very pleasant women at yell(ow pages) who offered to me the details of the company who had supplied my details to them, one pH (sic, pretentious tossers) Group. I called them (02075980310 if you're interested) and asked to be removed from their list, I assumed it was them who would have looked up the details and was distributing my information, but no, the guy I spoke to offered to call the people that they'd got my information from, one Dun & Bradstreet. So my message to businesses out there is this: Don't bother paying Dun & Bradstreet for inclusion in their business directory, you'll get included anyway, whether you like it or not.